Chris Bensch

Remembering Oz

Is The Wizard of Oz imprinted on your memory? I had a fresh realization of all the ways the classic 1939 movie is ingrained in my own mind when I recently explored The Wizard of Oz exhibit at The Strong's National Museum of Play.

The Scents of Summer

Summertime carries memories for all of us. Recently, a Consumer Reports article about sunscreens prompted me to think about the aromas that mean summer for me. Growing up long before the acronym SPF had any significance, I remember when Sea & Ski and Hawaiian Tropic marketed themselves as “suntan lotion,” a product that had more in common with basting oils than medical defense against skin damage.

Telling Tales and Sharing Play Stories

When I went to college, I couldn’t decide on a major. I didn’t switch my course of study the way lots of college students do—I just smooshed it all into a double major. One major was in English because I loved writing and reading stories. The other major was in history because, well, I loved stories about the past. Now that I’m a museum curator, a lot of what I do involves storytelling. Every day, as I study the museum’s objects, I’m continually working out the stories that they have to tell.

What’s a Girl to Do?

Kids often use play to explore adult roles, and toy and game makers are only too glad to produce playthings that tap into that behavior. The museum’s collection includes a group of games that provide revealing illustrations of adult perspectives on how kids can or should envision their roles as adults.

Backyard Adventures

As a kid, my summers included family camping trips, excursions to the amusement park, and Fourth of July fireworks. But those were the landmark events that punctuated the extended freedom of June, July, and August. On a day-to-day basis, my activities centered on the fun we created ourselves. And the location for those activities tended to be the small patch of sun, shade, and lawn in our suburban backyard. These toy cars have the same wear patterns that I remember from my sandbox vehicles. Tootsietoy cars, about 1970.</body></html>

Sugar Buzz Your Sweetie

Is there a box of chocolates in your Valentine’s Day plans? If you’re going to give (or are expecting to receive) candy as a token of love, you’re part of a romantic tradition that began more than a century ago. In the 1890s, candy makers finally glommed onto Valentine’s Day as an occasion to promote their products, even though they’d already managed to integrate confectionery into other holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Since that time, we’ve definitely taken their marketing message to heart. According to the U.S.

Have a Horrid Valentine's Day

What does Valentine’s Day make you think of? Boxes of chocolates? Bouquets of roses? Pledges of undying love? Sure, those are all part of the most romantic holiday on the calendar. On the other hand, from the 1840s into the early twentieth century, Valentine’s Day was also THE occasion to send insulting and downright nasty cards to your circle of acquaintances.